Evangelical Connexion of the Free Church of England

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Evangelical Connexion of the Free Church of England
Separated fromFree Church of England

The Evangelical Connexion of the Free Church of England was a small religious body that came into being in 2003 as a result of secessions from the Free Church of England. Despite its name, the Evangelical Connexion was never part of the Free Church of England.

The FCE's Declaration of Principles recognises the essential unity of all who, by a like faith, are united to the one Divine and Common Head of the Church (Jesus Christ) and requires the FCE to maintain communion with all other Christian churches.[1] However, FCE Bishops Barry Shucksmith and Arthur Bentley-Taylor, believed this should not go as far as participation in what they termed 'the unbiblical ecumenical dialogues' of the FCE and resigned as Bishops of the FCE in 2003 in protest at the direction that the church was taking. Ten congregations followed them and formed the Evangelical Connexion, a name derived from an earlier phase of the FCE's history when it grew out of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion.

The Evangelical Connexion saw itself as the true FCE and refuted the charge that it had left the FCE. However, since the Evangelical Connexion separated from the FCE three congregations have returned to the FCE, one has closed and three have become independent, leaving the Connexion with 3 congregations, located as follows,

Church Location Founded Link Minister
St Paul's Church, Fleetwood Fleetwood, Lancashire 1907 [1] Virgil Tountas
Christ Church, Cross Gates Leeds, West Yorkshire [2] Grahame Wray
Emmanuel Church, Workington Workington, Cumbria [3] Tony Pietersen

It is unclear to what extent the Connexion still functions corporately.

Most of the Connexion's church buildings are still claimed by the FCE, on the grounds that their use by congregations of the Evangelical Connexion contravenes the terms of their trust deeds. This claim by the FCE comes despite the fact that the buildings were built and paid for by the local congregations themselves.

The Connexion was committed to a particular interpretation of the founding principles of the FCE. Biblical theology, paedobaptism, liturgical worship, and episcopal polity were claimed to be important, although understood in light of the Declaration of Principles, as was a repudiation of indiscriminate ecumenism (in common with other bodies such as the FIEC or EFCC).[2]

Initially there were contacts with the FIEC and Affinity,[3] and also with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales and the Church of England in South Africa, as well as the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches (EFCC). The Connexion held to the supremacy and sufficiency of the Bible in determining doctrine and practice [4] and stood in the body of continuing Anglican churches which take their inspiration from the English Reformers. The Connexion also contended that it was the one remaining Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical, Anglican-style body in the UK whose doctrine and worship were still genuinely based on Scripture and the Prayer Book, though exclusive use of the Prayer Book in Connexion congregations was not required. The Church of England (Continuing) formed in 1994, a very small Protestant, Reformed Evangelical body, using only the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Authorised (KJV) Version Bible, has been informally friendly with the Connexion, not least with regard to the firm opposition to ecumenism.

In April 2008, a former Roman Catholic priest, Dominic Stockford, was consecrated as bishop for the Connexion by Arthur Bentley-Taylor and various other leaders of the wider Reformed church in the UK. Reverend Stockford resigned in 2012, for health reasons, following a hospital visit due to arrhythmia. A 'Co-ordinator' for the Connexion was appointed.[5]


  1. ^ The Declaration of Principles of the FCE
  2. ^ Declaration of Principles
  3. ^ The Connexion is no longer listed as a member of Affinity: http://www.affinity.org.uk/find-a-church.php?churchsearch=Free+Church+of+England.
  4. ^ FCE-EC Framework of Reference for Covenanting Churches & Individuals
  5. ^ Connect June 2012 from EC-FCE.org retrieved 9 March 2014

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